A worldwide search is under way for a 32-year-old business consultant who allegedly cracked the elaborate security systems of a major California bank and made off with some $8 million of the bank's funds.
The consultant, Stanley Mark Rifkin of Los Angeles, is accused of arranging a wire transfer of a total of $10.2 million from Los Angeles-based Security Pacific National Bank to a bank in New York City.
Bank officials, noting that the investigation is still going on, were reticent about the details of the alleged theft. Security Pacific Vice Chairman George Moody said Rifkin "broke through our security to obtain information, which permitted a fraudulent transfer of the bank's funds." He would not elaborate on what he meant by security, but another spokesman said it wasn't a computer crime.
Rifkin converted $8 million of these funds to his own use "through a very complex scheme," Moody said.
The transfer of funds took place on Oct. 26, and was discovered last Wednesday, according to a bank spokesman, Richard Warner.
The FBI quickly recovered about $2 million of the money, but a bureau spokesman refused to say where the money was found.
Security Pacific is the country's 10th largest bank and has deposits of $20.5 billion.
The bank said that Rifkin was neither an employe nor a consultant of Security Pacific. "We think he might have been a consultant to a company that does some business with us," Warner said yesterday in a telephone interview.
In explaining why such a large transfer of funds by wire was not immediately spotted, Warner said: "Security Pacific averages between 1,000 and 1,500 similar transactions each day, and during an average week, we may move as much as $20 billion through the wire transfer system."
Wire transfers are communications transmitted overleased telegraph lines.
In this case, Warner confirmed that the unnamed New York bank was a correspondent of Security Pacific. This means that the two banks maintain a close working relationship in which funds are regularly moved between them.
The alleged crime did not involve a breach of the company's computer system, the bank insists, even though Rifkin reportedly is a computer specialist and most banks operate their fund transfer systems by computer.
"We know exactly how it happened and it did not involve that kind of security breach," Warner said.
A government source said that he understood the funds were taken from the bank's surplus cash account, not from the accounts of depositors. Warner confirmed that the depositors will not be affected, and he added that a substantial portion of the loss is covered by insurance. "We believe that the financial impact of the theft will be immaterial, he said.
A spokesman for the FBI said the agency does not know Rifkin's whereabouts. A warrant has been issued charging him with interstate transportation of stolen property.